When the going gets tough

| November 03, 2005

“The post-dinner walk has been shown to help the bowels tremendously and will benefit your overall health,” says Dr. Raymond.

Many medications can cause nausea, constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain and even ulcers, so talk to your doctor if your prescriptions are causing digestive problems. Use caution when taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, because overuse causes stomach pain, bleeding and ulcers.

While constipation is uncomfortable, it will not cause cancer or release toxins into your bloodstream. And, as some advertisements for colon cleansings claim, there is no matter in your intestines that has been there for decades. According to Dr. Raymond, anything in your intestines has only been there for a few days or a week.

The other temporary, common and unpleasant digestive problem is the dreaded diarrhea. This occurs when anything disrupts the natural absorption of liquid during the digestion process.

The most common cause of diarrhea is a viral infection because a virus can damage the lining of the small intestine, preventing the absorption of fluids and nutrients. This usually clears up in one to three days. Other culprits include bacterial infections, parasites, inflammation of the intestines from medication, excessive caffeine or alcohol and intestinal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance or celiac disease.

Diarrhea usually clears up without the need of antibiotics or other medications, but while you are recovering you should take steps to care for your body. You must drink plenty of fluids because you are not absorbing enough during digestion. Try water or sports drinks to replace electrolytes. Gradually add solid foods back into your diet, like crackers, cereal, toast, rice and chicken. Avoid foods that may make diarrhea worse, like dairy products, caffeine, alcohol, fatty foods and spicy foods. Do not take anti-acids that contain magnesium because magnesium can cause diarrhea.

Fortunately, most digestive problems only require some changes to your diet and lifestyle. However, you should see a doctor for any sustained change in bowel habits. Other symptoms – weight loss, severe abdominal pain or rectal bleeding – along with digestive distress may be a sign of a more serious condition, like diabetes or a thyroid disorder.

Benefits Beyond the Bathroom
Not only will fiber keep your digestion running smoothly, it can benefit many other areas of your health. Just one of the benefits listed is enough to inspire anyone to get in the FDA’s recommended 25 grams of fiber a day.

  • It reduces your risk of diabetes, heart disease, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticular disease and colon cancer.

  • It lowers blood cholesterol levels.
  • It slows sugar absorption.
  • It helps with weight control because most high fiber foods are lower in calories and promote a feeling of fullness, so you eat less.

Warning: Increasing the amount of fiber should be done gradually to allow the bacteria in your digestive tract to adjust to its presence. Too much too fast can cause gas, abdominal bloating and cramping.

Sources: MayoClinic.com, Dr. Patricia Raymond

–Christine Green

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